Classic Movie Impressions: Blue Hawaii

I have been trading classic movie suggestions this summer with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs.

The movies we have given our impressions of so far have been

A Streetcar Named Desire

Cat on A Hot Tin Roof

The Thin Man

Double Indemnity

On her blog today, Erin is discussing To Catch A Thief, a favorite Hitchcock film of mine. I am going to be discussing Blue Hawaii, as the blog post title suggests.

When Erin suggested this movie, I was fine with it because I was sure it would be fun and if nothing else, the music would be good. Because my mom was always a huge fan of Elvis I knew quite a bit about him from a music stand point but I’ve only seen clips of his acting.

I do believe I saw part of this movie years ago. I expected it be a pretty big Cheese Fest, but I didn’t mind. With the way the world’s been lately, watching something light and cheesy is fine with me.

And yeah, there was some cheese to it, but it was also much better than I expected. Plus, Elvis’ voice on Can’t Help Falling in Love With You totally reminded me why so many people loved his singing and not just those swinging hips.

My mom was a huge Elvis fan when she was a teenager. She was raised by a strict, stereotypical Southern father who declared he would not have any of his daughters screaming about some boy swinging his hips. So one night when my mom and her sisters and their aunt (who is only a year older than my mom) were watching him on The Ed Sullivan Show, my mom said they tried to be very calm and not scream when he came on screen.

The bad thing was that her aunt grabbed my mom’s knee, and my mom can’t stand anyone to touch her knee because she’s very ticklish. She screamed when my aunt grabbed her knee, which brought my grandfather’s stern response of, “I will not have anyone screaming for that boy in my house!” My mom did her best to explain to him what had happened, but I’m not sure he believed her.

He must not have been too upset by my mom’s scream, though, because he took my mom and her sisters to see Elvis at a local high school at some point after he was on The Ed Sullivan Show. If you knew how my grandfather was back then, this would surprise you. I know it surprised me.

Anyhow, I digress. Blue Hawaii is a simple film about Elvis who returns to the island of Hawaii after serving in the military. His parents want him to work for his father in the pineapple business, but he wants to make it on his own, which, of course, causes tension. His quest for independence allows several opportunities for him to croon 14 different songs throughout the 1 hr 41 minute movie.

I wasn’t expecting Elvis to be a very good actor and he wasn’t stellar, but he also wasn’t that bad. He was certainly better than many of the actors of today. His long, dark eyelashes and pouty lips certainly didn’t hurt his appearance on screen.

This movie also stars Angela Lansbury as his mother. She portrays an over-the-top Southern mother who likes to remind everyone how rich they are. She’s also fairly racist, which is illuded to but not explicitly shown. She’s not a huge fan of her son’s girlfriend, a native girl who is bi-racial — part Hawaiian and part French. The suggestion is that one reason she’s not impressed with the girl is her background, but that’s only subtly suggested because the movie is very light for the most part. Plus, all of that is put aside as the movie moves on and the attitude of Elvis’ mother changes toward the girlfriend and his effort to make a way on his own.

Speaking of  his girlfriend in the movie (Joan Blackman), according to Express, which is a UK publication, Elvis fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. He met her in 1958, before they filmed Blue Hawaii, and chased her and begged her to be in the movie with him.

Joan said: When we first set eyes on each other (in 1957), there was a spark, a magic in the air… There was just that special something between us, sometimes so warm and wonderful you could almost reach out and touch it.”

In 1977 she told a magazine that she and Elvis had adjoining hotel rooms during the filming of the movie and essentially lived together for weeks. Of course Elvis was dating Priscilla at the time and she and Joan looked a lot alike.

I should add that this Express magazine site looks a bit like a gossip site, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Back to the movie, because I have digressed again.

I loved the music and scenery in this movie. I wouldn’t say the movie is a super accurate portrayal of what Hawaii is really like, but it doesn’t mock the natives of the islands and instead brings the viewers attention to some of the more interesting aspects of the islands’ diverse cultures.

I will say that according to this movie, Hawaii is a place where bare-chested men always ride the seas in little boats with a guitar so they can sing. I’ve never been there before so for those of you who have — is this true?!

If you are looking for a deep plot, this movie is definitely not what you want to watch. It’s essentially one big concert movie with very little plot. That, however, is exactly what I needed last week when I watched it.

Have you ever seen Blue Hawaii? What did you think of it?